We were extras in “1911” — a big-budget Chinese propaganda Jackie Chan movie! (here are some photos)

Filming 1911

It’s maybe not as big as that other big propaganda movie from this year, “The Founding of the Party,” because without the Party reality itself would cease to exist and Sun Yat-sen was into some stuff that the Party doesn’t really go for, but this is still big stuff. “1911” is a big-budget Jackie Chan Chinese propaganda epic commemorating the 100th anniversary of the 1911 Revolution (辛亥革命, see below for historical info/links), with “over 70 famous Chinese actors” including Winston Chao (赵文瑄) as Sun Yat-sen (孫中山) and Lǐ BÄ«ngbÄ«ng (李冰冰) as Jackie Chan’s wife.

And we were extras for two days of filming! Or, some friends and I were; Jessica had to stay home. So if we’re reeeally lucky I or someone we know will get part of an appendage in the background of a scene for a split-second.

On our first day of filming they needed foreigners to be political delegates for a scene where Sun Yatsen gives the speech announcing that he’s giving up the presidency of the brand new republic (knowing that he can’t retain power due to Yuan Shikai). Basically we stood around, and occasionally they filmed us standing around, clapping for Winston Chao/Sun Yat-sen, and acting surprised when he makes his announcement.

The second day was better: we were foreigners sitting in the “Colorado Denver Public Library”. Sun Yatsen is in the States on a fundraising trip. He comes into the library, starts reading the paper and discovers in the headlines that revolution has broken out in China. He chokes on his food in surprise, and we foreigners look up from our books at the disturbance.

Here are a couple photos, with more in the photo gallery.

With Natalie on a veeeery cold set.

Dingle (aka James) poses cooperatively so I can get a shot of Winston Chao (赵文瑄).

The “Colorado Denver Public Library”.

The books were real.

More photos in the photo gallery!

Competing 1911 historical narratives

The 1911 Revolution marked the official end of five million years of unbroken imperial rule in China (this other propaganda movie is about the unification of China and the beginning of imperial rule). For a quick history lesson:

  • China 1911: The Birth of China’s Tragedy (History Today)
    “…for all the celebrations in the mainland and Taiwan this autumn, the revolution of 1911-12 brought no real solution and left China facing decades of suffering.”
  • Reading Round-Up: The Xinhai Revolution, One Hundred Years Later
  • The Xinhai Revolution (Wikipedia)
    “The Xinhai Revolution…, also known as the Revolution of 1911 or the Chinese Revolution, was a revolution that overthrew China’s last imperial dynasty, the Qing (1644-1912), and established the Republic of China. The revolution, which began with the Wuchang Uprising on October 10, 1911 and ended with the abdication of the “Last Emperor” Puyi on February 12, 1912, is named after the Xinhai year in the sexagenary cycle of the Chinese calendar. The Xinhai Revolution marks the end of over 2,000 years of Imperial China and the beginning of China’s Republican era.”

And here’s an intro to the battle between Taiwan and China over the 1911 historical narrative:

  • What really happened on Oct. 10, 1911?
    “In the run up to the 100th anniversary of the Xinhai Revolution, Beijing has been performing a spectacular tightrope walk. Officials have been told that it should be a grand affair, but must be careful not to upstage the celebration of the Party’s 90th anniversary. This is because even though Sun Yat-sen is seen by many Chinese as the father of modern China, his ideas do not fit the country’s current direction.”
  • One revolution, two interpretations
    “Taiwan and China have taken different approaches to commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Wuchang Uprising, which took place on Oct. 10, 1911 and marked the beginning of a series of revolutions that eventually ended dynastic rule and led to the establishment of the Republic of China.
    “These differences are created by the complex history of and sensitive political disputes between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait, who are both trying to put forward their interpretation of history as definitive.”
  • China’s Communist Party celebrates 1911 Revolution in low key
    “Naysayers note however that celebrations for Sun Yat-sen and 1911 Revolution (Xinhai) are low-key compared to those in Taiwan, where Sun is seen as the ‘Father of the Nation’, and an inspiration for the country’s cardinal principles: nationalism, democracy and people’s wellbeing. Others believe that Sun’s low profile is probably designed not to overshadow the 90th anniversary of the Communist Party, celebrated last July.”
  • A Century After Xinhai: Whose Revolution?
  • 1911: the Xinhai Year of Revolution 辛亥革命
    “A hundred years on the Xinhai remains a controversial period. The year 2011 started with Ma Ying-jeou 馬英九 in Taiwan lauding the Xinhai centenary… On the other side of the Taiwan Strait reflections are not quite as sanguine. The previous official monopoly over the interpretation of history has long since been undermined.”
  • Profound shift as China marches back to Mao
    “Both the Communist Party and dem0cr@tic activists claim the Xinhai Revolution as part of their historical ancestry.

    “”The left, in the sense of representing anti-dem0cr@tic dictatorship, does not own revolutionary legitimacy in China,” said David Kelly, research director at China Policy in Beijing and a visiting professor at Peking University. “The anniversary of 1911 brings into play the fundamental decision between social dem0cr@cy and revolutionary dictatorship.””

If any interesting movie reviews come out, or if we get some incriminating screen stills, I’ll post them here.

Scene Clips & Screen Stills! [2011-10-30 update]

The movie’s out, and you can see video clips of the scenes we’re in and screen stills of us in action here:

The photo gallery has been updated with all the new screen stills.

4 thoughts on “We were extras in “1911” — a big-budget Chinese propaganda Jackie Chan movie! (here are some photos)”

  1. In 1988, my husband got a chance to pose as a Western radio broadcaster in some CCTV remake of “The Last Emperor” (to correct Bertolucci’s film). Never got any royalties or anything, but he had fun.

    So who does Jackie Chan play?

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